Mike Lerner is Taking Better Photographs than You: Interview

How do you get a life like Mike Lerner’s, photographing models, celebrities and traveling to amazing locations? It’s actually really easy, just buy a camera, become extremely talented and work from there. His work ranges from concert photos to candid shots and basically everything in between. Each image is stunning, and has the ability to capture his subjects and show them at there best, without sacrificing a good shot. I was able to (somehow) convince him to answer a few questions, just to get an idea on how these images are possible.


LG: How did you get started in photography? Was it something that you went to school for or something that you’ve learned as it progressed? ML: My start in photography started out of boredom. I graduated from college in 2006 and was working at a law firm. I took the LSAT’s the      year before and had planned to give law school a shot. Throughout college I was playing poker, both online and live (in some sketchy situations I might add. FBI raid? yup.) I quit working at the firm after I had won a couple of online tournaments; it’s easy to do when you take in $10,000 in one night. But, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, how did I start. Poker was becoming a seesaw, I was up and then down constantly. I was going to a lot of clubs and shows and saw photographers at the front of all the fun, so I said to myself, “I can fucking do that!” So I just did it, all by myself, no school, no classes, none of that shit. LG: Once you start getting into the photography seen, after you said “I can do this” how did you progress to the point where you’re taking photographs of huge celebrities? I feel like there has to be some work that goes into that? ML: I don’t want to really tell how I networked and made connections and went about my business. I’ve talked about it so many times that I just never care to answer the questions. Also, I keep these secrets for myself. LG: I can see where it can be tedious talking about the marketing aspect of photography and frankly just not fun at all. Also, let’s allow our photographer readers figure somethings out on their own.  You’ve worked with subjects that range from Justin Bieber and Katy Perry to people of Indonesia to fashion models. How does your approach change from subject to subject? ML: My approach rarely changes in regards to who/what I shoot. I mean, live music is obviously different for a bunch of reasons. Mainly, I have no control over the situation. I make sure my light is good and I try to frame them as best as I can. LG: Do you feel better about the photo situations that you do control, or do you like the rush of catching things as they happen, such as your live show photography? ML: I’m starting to grow tired of show photography even though it is a passion, and how I mainly make my living, I just love the rush of taking a subject for a walk and shooting what happens. LG: Who are your biggest photographical influences? I look up to a lot of people. Danny Clinch is someone I’ve admired for a while. We’ve exchanged a couple of emails and he is an honest, straight to the point dude. Seriously kids, go check his work out. You’ll get jealous very quickly. LG: What are your biggest influences outside of the photography world? ML: As far as influence outside the world of photography, I get mine from movies and music, like everyone else right!? I live for Terrence Malick films. But seriously, music plays an important part of my creative process. A lot of classical and orchestral music is taking over my life right now. I’m on a Stravinsky kick. I spoke to Kanye West for a minute a couple months ago (who gets to say that?! seriously) and he told me that when he was younger, when he would hear music, he used to see colors and geometric shapes. I told him that when I hear music, I see films. When I listen to music I create my own short films/music videos in my head, or just these stills that come into my head. When I’m riding the subway, I’m constantly creating. My eyes are closed and my mind is open. LG: I wish I had some sort of awesome synthestesia type power, when I listen to music I just hear chord progressions, I want to be able to see some cool photographs in my head or something. Which do you prefer the large staged photographs or candid images taken without the help of a massive rig and team? ML: Candid images are my thing. The most I ever want is maybe a cyc wall and a couple lights, or a simple backdrop and one light. These overproduced, over edited images suck the life out of the photo; it’s pathetic, tacky and I hate it. LG: What personal projects are you truly excited about? A person you’ll be photographing, concepts, exhibits anything really. ML: The US tour with Bieber has me super excited right now. Also doing a lot of work with Ford Models has been great. Expect a short film in the next couple of weeks. (We tried to get a little more info on the film, but apparently you guys are going to have to wait) LG: Which photography scene (party, street, journalistic, high art, portrait, candid) are you most into either as something you do or as an observer? Which ones are you not a fan of? ML: I’m starting to get little tired of the whole “street fashion blogger” thing. I know it will be around for a while and there are some people who do it well, but it just has this pretentious air around it. I mean, I’ve tried to stay away, but sometimes you get some good images. I think, when I do it, I kind of say, “fuck you” to the whole scene by shooting in b&w. So fuck you fashion photographer bloggers, you’ll never know what color scarf that was! LG: The settings of your pictures vary, as much as, if not more than your subjects how do you chose which place to shoot which person? ML: I’m so lazy when it comes to picking locations to shoot. Maybe I’ll hire a location scout. Anyone interested? (More on that later) LG: What are your favorite places to shoot? ML: My roof is probably my choice spot. Ohhhh, Brooklyn rooftop, how fucking original! I know, trust me I know. I just did a little look editorial with Glamour Kills and I must say, that BK rooftop was killer   LG: What camera is your favorite for personal use? ML: I use 2 cameras mostly. I use the Canon 1DmarkIV and a Kiev60 medium format rangefinder. I’m going to be shooting more film so I plan to add a Pentax 67ii and a mamiya 67 to the arsenal. LG: What thoughts do you have on the medium of photography currently? Especially with the ubiquity of HD camera’s today. ML: To be honest, I really don’t care. I do read some tech blogs, and I’m kind of a gear head, but as far as “the ubiquity of HD cameras” (you smug bastard) I really don’t care. I’m not the guy taking wedding photos, saying “Fuck, so many people want to be photographers these days! Damn everyone has the new Canon shit bricks, why can’t I have that camera!?”

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